A new safe haven for first responders and military veterans will soon be open in Ashcroft to provide critical mental health support and services to the community at large.
This Saturday at 1 p.m., Honour Ranch will hold a ceremonial launch ahead of its official launch next year.
“We’ll start treatment in early 2020,” said honorary colonel Allan De Genova, who is also president and founder of Honour House Society. “The main lodge is ready and we’ll be working toward another 10 cottages.”
Until then, clinical psychologists, psychiatrists and various professionals will continue to set up programs for those suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and other mental illnesses.
De Genova said he was inspired to start the ranch by his friend, military veteran Joseph Allina, who completed three tours in Afghanistan, but died by suicide in July 2018. Allina’s partner, a Surrey RCMP officer, will be at Saturday’s Honour Ranch launch.
“If I would have had Honour Ranch up and running, I would have saved Joe,” De Genova said. “I feel bad about that and so Joe is truly my inspiration behind getting this ranch up and running. I think about him every day and I’ve been pushing to get here.”
During a recent ceremony, De Genova said a local RCMP officer approached him and described how desperately he needs the facility to open.
“He said, ‘I will be there. I couldn’t believe it,” De Genova said, noting he is feeling more inspired than ever to continue his mission to help other veterans and first responders recover and thrive.
He said he sympathized with Ashcroft and Cache Creek residents’ recent adversities, including wildfires, floods, mudslides and even losing a fire chief.
Honour House opened in 2011 in New Westminster, offering free lodging to first responders and armed forces members who required medical treatment and care. Honour Ranch sits on a 120-acre property south of Ashcroft.
Honour Ranch was originally meant to be located in Kamloops, on land in Rayleigh donated by Rick and Donna Wanless. Issues relating to train noise and the floodplain led organizers to seek another location.